Someone walked through the door. I looked up—I looked up whenever anyone came in. Nervous habit.
She had a backpack full of books and she was wearing a black t-shirt that said “Campus Security” in bold, white letters. She had a coffee in one hand and a sub sandwich in the other. I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to eat or drink in the library, but damn, watching her walk in, confidently flaunting her food, it made me think you could. If anyone could eat in illegal areas, it was definitely her.
She looked my way and smiled. She came towards me. Oh God, why was she coming towards me?
“Hey Adam,” she said, pulling up a chair and setting her sandwich and coffee on his desk.
Adam smiled back. “Hey Summer! Oh gosh, is it seriously lunchtime already?”
“You bet it is,” she replied, then turned her gaze to me. “Hi, I’m Summer,” she said, sticking out her hand.
Despite myself, I leaned over and took it. “Luis,” I said accidentally.
“We were doing some research and I guess I lost track of time,” Adam explained.
“It’s no problem,” Summer assured him. “I’ll just be over here eating my sandwich. You two carry on.”
“Thanks,” said Adam. I didn’t think it was possible for him to be any happier. “What do you say, Luis? Should we finish this article and then break for lunch?”
I hadn’t brought a lunch. I hadn’t thought I’d be put in this situation. “I, um…” I spotted Paul coming down the stairs. He didn’t see me. “Looks like my friend’s ready to go,” I said gathering up my papers.
Paul glanced around the computers, wincing as he did. Maybe they really did hurt his head. He spotted me and made an unreadable face.
“Okay,” said Adam, standing up and pushing out his chair so I could get out from behind his desk. “I’ll go get your last article from the printer and staple it for you.”
“Thanks.” I wheeled myself around the desk.
“What’re you researching?” asked Summer before taking a bite of her sandwich.
“Yeah, I think they’re interesting,” I replied.
“Oh, totally,” she said. “Super interesting.” She took a sip of coffee. “In an awful sort of way. Kinda berserk. Killing and tearing things up for no reason.”
I recoiled. Did she—did she just dis ultra-heroes? I knew we weren’t perfect, but she had no right to say that about us. What did she know? She had probably never even met an ultra-hero. I was outraged.
Adam came over with my copies. “Here you go,” he said stapling them together and handing them to me. “I’ll be here tomorrow, if you want to do some more research.”
“Thanks,” I said. I rolled myself to Paul.
“Nice to meet you, Luis!” called Summer, waving.
Paul dropped his notebook in my lap and pushed me towards the exit.
“Who the hell were they?” he asked under his breath.
“Research librarian and his friend,” I replied. “I was using his print card.”
“I wouldn’t get too close to them. They might be connected to your Mr. Ashby.”
“He’s not mine,” I grumbled, “and I doubt it.”
“Still,” Paul continued. “Making friends with non-ultra-heroes isn’t wise.”
“I know. Relax, okay?”
It was common knowledge among the ultra-hero community that when you start fraternizing with people outside your group, people who shouldn’t be allowed to know your secrets, that eventually they learned your secrets. And that was dangerous for everyone anytime that happened. Not just you or your non-heroic friends, but to all ultra-heroes.
That wasn’t going to happen here. Sure, I liked Adam. He was likeable. And yeah, I liked researching with him and talking to him. But it’s not like we were friends. I wasn’t about to tell him about Mom or Ashby or Paul. And Summer…that wasn’t even an issue. There were few things I could say for certain, but one thing I could say for certain was that Summer and I weren’t friends and we probably never would be.
“I still don’t like it.”
That was the first thing Paul said when we were alone in the van.
“You’re being way too chummy with that guy.”
“For God’s stake, Paul—“
“—I was using his print card.”
Paul sneered at me for longer than was safe while driving. “I don’t believe you. There was too much smiling.”
“Now you’re saying I can’t smile?”
“I’m saying you need to be careful. It only takes one slip up and they’ve got you.”
I was quiet. I didn’t have to ask who. I had a vague idea. Besides, I knew Paul was right.
“And you shouldn’t smile,” continued Paul. “Ever.”
I studied him, looking for a sign that he was joking. He glanced imperceptibly at me and then looked back at the road. I still don’t know, to this day, whether he had been joking.
A/N: Luis and Adam sitting in a tree, r-e-a-s-e-a-rching… And Summer doesn’t mean any harm. She just has strong opinions and likes to argue. Unfortunately, so does Luis.
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